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2023 Know Your Enemy: Tampa Bay Rays

Very few people will watch another big season for the Rays

Minnesota Twins v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Rays @ Blue Jays: April 14-16
Blue Jays @ Rays: May 22-25
Blue Jays @ Rays: September 22-24
Rays @ Blue Jays: September 29-30, October 1

The Tampa Bay Rays had another successful season last year, finishing third in the AL East with an 86-76 record. They made the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, although this time getting knocked out by the Cleveland Guardians in the Wild Card round. And despite all of that, they drew just 1,128,127 fans through their gates, the third lowest attendance in the league. Only the 102 loss Athletics and 93 loss Marlins drew fewer fans.

The Rays are returning much of the same roster as a year ago, with a few departures that left holes that are being filled internally. And because they’re the Rays, it’ll be talented players you’ve never heard of.

Notable Departures

Cory Kluber, SP
David Peralta, OF
Kevin Kiermaier, OF
Roman Quinn, OF
Ryan Yarbrough, SP
Mike Zunino, C

Notable Arrivals

Zach Eflin, SP

Pitching Staff

Starting pitchers:

Shane McClanahan, LHP
Zach Eflin, RHP
Jeffrey Springs, LHP
Drew Rasmussen, RHP
Josh Fleming, LHP


The Rays are starting the season with Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz on the Injured List for a few months to start with, but they’re in pretty good hands even without them.

McClanahan is one of the best pitchers in the AL, going 12-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 3.00 FIP over 166.1 innings. He was seventh among qualified starters last year with a 10.50 K/9 rate, while being well above average at limiting walks and about league average at allowing home runs. He was mostly healthy last year, and a healthy McClanahan will carry the Rays’ staff.

Zach Eflin signed the largest free agent contract in Rays’ history over the winter, signing a 3 year, $40m deal. The fact that this is the Rays’ largest contract ever is beyond embarrassing, surpassing the deal Wilson Alvarez signed 25 years ago.

Eflin had a typical Eflin season, pitching 75.2 innings, coming out with a 4.04 ERA and a 3.56 FIP. For the third straight season, his FIP was half a run better than his ERA. If I had to guess, those numbers will be much closer to each other this year. That’s not just a comment on Rays’ magic, but also an indictment on the Phillies’ defense.

The 30 year old Springs had a breakout season last year, earning his way into the starting rotation after four seasons of pitching out of bullpens. He threw a career high 135.1 innings, putting up a 9-5 record with a 2.46 ERA and 3.04 FIP. He was never much of a pitcher before, but now all of a sudden he’s a top 10 pitcher in the AL East. Repeating that success is another thing, but you’d be foolish to bet against the Rays.

Drew Rasmussen continued his growth from highly regarded prospect who came over in the Willy Adames trade to highly contributing member of the rotation. Over 28 starts and 146 innings, he put up a 2.84 ERA and 3.26 FIP. He doesn’t strike out many, but walked just 1.91 batters per 9 innings. At 27 now, he’s likely to continue getting better.

Josh Fleming enters the year as the 5th starter, but that may not be a long term thing. He threw 35 innings last year with a 6.43 ERA. His FIP was 2 runs better at 4.43, which comes out to good for a 5th starter. Behind Fleming, Luis Patiño, Yonny Chirinos and Taj Bradley will all likely get some starts in the early part of the season.



This is probably the most frustrating part of the Rays - their continued ability to turn nobodies into fantastic relievers. The backend of the bullpen is full of them, with Pete Fairbanks set to be closer. Setup men Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Colin Poche and Ryan Thompson and Kevin Kelly are all projected for a sub-3.80 ERA this year.

The seemingly most likely Rays breakout reliever this year is probably Calvin Faucher, who throws a heavy sinking fastball in the mid-90s with a 3000+ RPM slider and curveball. He’s the prototypical Rays’ breakout candidate, another pitcher who got his start in another organization.

Position Players


Christian Bethancourt

The Rays added Christian Bethancourt at the deadline last year, after a strong return to the Majors with the A’s. After making his MLB debut in 2013, Bethancourt bounced up and down between the MLB level and AAA, before heading to Korea for the 2019 season. He was back in the US for 2021, pitching for the Pirates AAA team before making the Majors with the A’s last year. He’s now set to be the Rays’ top catcher, and the range of outcomes for him seem to be anywhere from league average to replacement level.

Francisco Mejía

If Bethancourt fails, the Rays will lean more on Mejía. This will be Mejía’s third season in the Rays’ organization, and he was the catcher for a little over half of the games each season. In a good year, he can be a league average bat, but in a bad year he’s a liability. On the defensive side of thinks, he also struggles. Between Bethancourt and Mejía, this is probably the Rays’ weakest position.


Yandy Díaz, 1B

The 31 year old Díaz had a career year last season, hitting a very good .296/.401/.423 (146 wRC+). He isn’t your prototypical power hitting first baseman, hitting only 9 home runs in 137 games last year. But his on base ability is his top skill, and he’s quite good at it. His 14.0 BB% to 10.8 K% netted him the second best ratio in all of baseball, behind only the incomparable Juan Soto.

Brandon Lowe, 2B

After putting up 4.9 WAR in 2021, Lowe had a very disappointing season in 2022, putting up just 0.9 WAR in 65 games. He had a stress reaction in his lower back that cost him nearly 100 games last year. He seems healthy now, and probably likely is a threat with the bat once again. If Lowe misses significant time again, Vidal Bruján likely is given another opportunity to run with the position.

Isaac Paredes, 3B

The Rays traded Austin Meadows for Paredes at the start of the year last year, and he promptly put up a very strong season after being a below replacement level player prior to acquisition. He hit .205/.304/.435 (116 wRC+) with strong defense all around the infield. He’s likely set to get a bulk of the time at 3B this year, and will look to build off his breakout year. If he struggles, top prospect Curtis Mead is nearly Major League ready, and looks poised to bring another strong bat to the Rays’ lineup.

Wander Franco, SS

Franco is the future and now the present of the Rays. The 22 year old had a rough year in 2022 with a hamate fracture and ended up playing just 83 games. Much like Díaz, Franco doesn’t strike out much, going down in just 9.6% of his plate appearances. Only Luis Arraez and Steven Kwan played in more games and struck out at a lower rate. Now healthy, the world will likely see what a full season of Franco looks like.

Taylor Walls, INF

Walls isn’t slated for any platoon opportunities at the moment, but likely gets into a lot of games this year as a utility guy. When Walls first came up, his bat was promising, but has looked bad since, hitting a horrible .172/.268/.285 (66 wRC+) last season. Depending on the metric, his defense on the infield is good (+19 DRS) mediocre (-1.5 UZR) and bad (-10 Outs Above Average).


Randy Arozarena, LF

Arozarena glowed in the spotlight at the World Baseball Classic, collecting big hits, big catches and big moments on the biggest stage. He’s no stranger to the big stage either, breaking into the spotlight during the Rays’ 2020 American League Pennant run. After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2021, Arozarena nearly matched his output again. His wRC+ fell from 128 to 125, while he 20 home runs in both seasons. He stole 20 bases in 2021, then 32 last season, and expect that number to be even higher in 2023.

Jose Siri, CF

The Rays traded for Siri last summer with the intention of adding his strong defense to the outfield. He hit .241/.292/.367 (93 wRC+) after the trade, and continued to play his strong defense. He’s now set to be the heir defensive whiz in CF after the departure of Kiermaier, and his defense is probably up to the task, although he’s likely to be even worse with the bat.

Manuel Margot, RF

Margot had an off season last year in the defense side of things. After 13 DRS and 17 OAA in 2021, he had just 3 DRS and 0 OAA last season. He did set a career best season with his bat though, although supported by a career high .332 BABIP. His .274/.325/.375 gave him his first above league average season with a 106 wRC+.

Josh Lowe and Luke Raley will likely get a lot of reps in the outfield.


Fangraphs Depth Charts: 87-75
PECOTA: 86.8-75.2

2023 Outlook

Both projection systems have them at as an 87 win team. After running through their roster, I think there’s a legitimate chance here that they 95+ games and take the division. There’s also a lot of risk here, and they could struggle to meet that projection. But even if multiple things break poorly for them, they’re winning more than they’re losing this year, and they’re probably going to find themselves in the playoffs for the fifth straight year.


Where do the Rays finish in the standings?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    (8 votes)
  • 25%
    (20 votes)
  • 50%
    (39 votes)
  • 14%
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now


How many of the 13 games against the Rays do the Jays win?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    10 or more
    (4 votes)
  • 55%
    (42 votes)
  • 39%
    (30 votes)
  • 0%
    3 or fewer
    (0 votes)
76 votes total Vote Now